Red Lentils (Masoor Daal)

Red lentil soup, also known as Masoor Daal, is a staple in most Indian households, with each family possessing a slight variation in how it's prepared. Jazzed up with turmeric, cumin and other spices and served with veggies and whole wheat bread (roti) or rice, daal is a fixture at every meal, packing a vegetarian protein punch as well as fibre and B vitamins. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious and soul-warming. My four year old loves it, which is a fact that definitely warms my soul. 

RECIPE

Yield
Serves a family of 4

Ingredients
1 cup red lentils (masoor daal) found in most regular and Indian grocery stores
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 black peppercorns
Pinch hing (asafoetida) found in Indian grocery stores (optional) 
1 tomato grated
Salt to taste (skip for babies)
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Fistful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method
Wash the lentils and discard the water. Do this 2-3 times. Soak the lentils in room temperature water for 1-2 hours to expedite the cooking process. 

Discard the soaking liquid (this reduces phytic acid present in many grains and legumes, which acts as an anti-nutrient and can prevent mineral absorption). 

In a pot for which you have a lid, add the soaked lentils, 5 cups of fresh water, turmeric, peppercorns and hing. Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any foam that arises. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes, continuing to take off the foam (this will reduce gassiness!) Reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are dissolved. If using a pressure cooker, use 3 cups of water, allow 1-2 whistles and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. 

Once the lentils are cooked, add the grated tomato and salt to taste and continue to simmer on very low heat.

In parallel, prepare the seasoning, also known as tadka

Heat the oil over medium flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and stir for about a minute until sizzling and aromatic (but not burnt). Add the garlic and stir until just barely pink, about a minute. Transfer the seasoning to the daal (expect a loud sizzle!) and stir well. 

Fish out the peppercorns, especially if feeding kids. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Finish with a garnish of cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. 
 

Sumac Hummus

Hummus is my best friend on a lazy day (and all days). It is delicious, satisfying, healthy and versatile. In a pinch, it makes for the perfect kid lunch, slathered into a pita pocket with some chopped avocado thrown in. A large dollop with oven-roasted potatoes and sautéed greens makes for a very happy dinner and my son and his friends love dipping veggie sticks into it for a snack! I like it best on its own straight from the fridge, it's creaminess deceiving me into thinking I'm enjoying a forbidden treat. 

Packed with plant-based protein, good-for-you fats, iron, zinc, potassium, B vitamins like folate and gut-friendly fibre, this creamy classic from the Middle East can be yours to lap up in less than minutes. It's tempting to buy but ridiculously easy to make and even more delicious in its DIY version. 

Without further ado, let's get blending. 

RECIPE

Sumac Hummus
Baby, Toddler, Kid, Adult


Ingredients
1 15 oz can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini (white sesame paste)
Juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon plus a few extra pinches salt (skip for babies)
5 tablespoons cold water
Large pinch sumac (or cumin and paprika powders)

Method
Bled all the ingredients except the sumac (or cumin and paprika) until smooth, adding a splash more cold water if necessary to achieve a creamy texture. Check the salt and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with sumac (or cumin and paprika if you prefer) and drizzle with a little olive oil. Enjoy with crackers, chopped veg, on pita bread, in a sandwich or on its own. It should keep covered in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

 

Jazzy Spinach

Jazzy Spinach
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Green vegetables really are all they're chalked up to be.

Bursting with cancer-fighting phyto (plant-based) nutrients, as well as fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins like folate and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron (great for vegetarians!), green vegetables have been an integral part of many healthy ancient diets.

Sadly, the intake of green veggies in the West today is far from optimal, with debilitating health consequences. 

So what's the big deal about greens anyway? Can't we get all the same nutrients from 'tastier', more kid-friendly veggies? Not so fast. 

A recent study shed even more light on the benefits of green veggies, which contain an important type of sugar called sulfoquinorose. Complicated nomenclature aside, these SQ sugars are food for the good bacteria in our guts. A healthy gut means a healthy you - this makes gut-friendly greens even more critical in our diets. 

Getting kids to eat their greens, however, isn't always an easy task. 

We have likely tried and failed, facing vehement rejection. We may have occasionally snuck them into soups, stews, fritters and frittatas in an effort to get our tots to enjoy their umpteen benefits.

While there's nothing wrong with occasionally disguising veggies, I was determined to get my almost 4 year old son to embrace and celebrate greens in their natural, pure, unadulterated form, in order to set the stage for a lifetime of 'green veggie loving' (wishful thinking?).

And so, I played around with a bag of frozen spinach until I found a recipe that was a home run. I share it with you today in the hope that your kids and families will enjoy it as much as we have.

Here's to loving our greens! 

A Note On Spinach And Oxalates
Spinach and some other greens contain oxalic acid which reduces the absorption of calcium from that same food. As long as you are not eating boatloads of spinach daily or relying on it as your main source of calcium, this should not be an issue. For this reason I also suggest varying your greens. Kale, Swiss Chard and Collard Greens are all worth bringing into your rotation.

Yield
Serves a family of 3-4

Ingredients
1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, finely chopped
250 g / 8 oz of frozen spinach (fresh is fine too)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adults only :)) 
salt to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

Method
In a saucepan for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle but not burn, about a minute. 

Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the turmeric and mix well until the spice opens up, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sauté the mixture for 3 minutes. 

Stir in the frozen spinach and cover the pan with the lid for 5 minutes stirring the mixture every couple of minutes. This will speed up the thawing process. Take the lid off, lightly salt the spinach and sauté for 5 additional minutes. Add the cumin and coriander powders and sauté for 2-3 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Shower with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Serve as a delicious and nutritious side dish. Layer onto a grilled cheese sandwich to make it ultra healthy or roll in a pita bread with hummus for the perfect, quick lunch. Stir into yoghurt for a cool summer side or serve on top of crackers as a snack. 

Cumin Carrot Pea Potato Puree

Cumin Carrot Pea Potato Puree
6 months+

This jazzed up version of the classic combination of carrots, peas and potatoes is sure to enliven baby's taste buds and health. 

Yield
8 oz or 2 baby servings

Ingredients
1 medium carrot peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 medium potato peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, place the carrots, peas and potato with 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a medium-low heat and steam for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. 

Take the lid off and add the oil and cumin to the vegetables, stirring well for about a minute, until the spice is well incorporated. Puree or mash and serve for a classic and tasty baby meal or leave in chunks and serve for baby to pick up and enjoy. Alternatively, add salt and serve as a veggie side dish for toddlers and older kids. 

Twice Baked Potato With Broccoli And Chicken

Twice Baked Potato With Chicken and Broccoli
6 months+, Baby-led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Note: Vegetarians can skip the chicken and still enjoy the recipe. A good protein-rich substitute could be shelled and cooked edamame. 

Yield
2 adults and 1 toddler

Ingredients
3 medium Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
Salt to taste
12 broccoli florets
2 cooked chicken breasts shredded, about 1 cup
(leftover roast chicken works well or use this brilliant method http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891)
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C. 

Jab the potato all over with a fork. Season generously with sea salt and wrap in foil. Place in the preheated oven for 40-60 minutes until fork tender. 

(If you're in a tearing hurry, you can also cook the jabbed and seasoned potato in a microwave for 5 minutes on each side.)

While the potato is cooking, steam the broccoli florets until cooked yet firm. If you don't have leftover shredded chicken, this is a good time to cook the chicken breasts using this fast and wonderful method: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891

Remove the cooked potatoes from the oven and carefully open up the foil. Cut each potato in half and gently scoop out the steaming flesh into a mixing bowl, retaining a thin layer near the skin to keep it intact. 

To the hot potato, add 3 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of grated cheese, nutmeg, broccoli, chicken and salt to taste and mix well, taking care not to mush up the broccoli florets. Scoop the mixture back into the potato skins. 

Divide the remaining butter and cheese on top of the potato boats and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the tops are golden brown. Remove, allow to cool and dive right in. 

For babies, you can add some breast milk or formula to the potato, broccoli, chicken mixture and puree until smooth or encourage them to pick up chunks of the mixture and feed themselves for a perfect and delicious baby-led weaning experience. 

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Spiced Potato Patties

My favourite savoury snack growing up in India was Aloo Tikki or Indian potato cakes, particularly the ones made by my Dadiji / Grandma. Mashed potatoes mixed with spices and bread crumbs and fried to a perfect golden brown - I mean, need I say more?! I'd get home from school and wish with all my heart that those crisp, pillowy delights were waiting for their rightful devourer. Sometimes I'd get lucky and most of the time, I'd get a plate of fruit, but regardless of the frequency, the deliciousness and joy of those potato cakes has remained etched in my memory.

If you've been reading my recent posts, you'll know that I'm currently (and probably will be forever more) obsessed with the potato. First I talked about why potatoes are a kid superfood and here, I got all geeky and excited about why cooked and cooled potatoes are essentially the new kale. 

So yes, you can go ahead and call me the potato lady. I'll accept the moniker. 

Today I present a nutritious version of my beloved childhood potato cake that is ideal for the lunchbox and the family table. Cooled in the lunchbox, these energising patties provide resistant starch that feed the friendly bugs in our colon, promoting digestive and overall health and vitality. Enjoyed hot or cold, they are brimming with complex carbohydrate for sustained energy as well as B and C vitamins, highly absorbable minerals, complete protein and fibre. Spiced lightly with digestion boosting and iron-rich cumin, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer turmeric and anti-bacterial cilantro, these are 'I can't believe it's good for me' delicious. I hope your kids love them as much as we do. 

RECIPE

Spiced Potato Patties
Baby led weaning, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Yield
12 3 inch diameter patties (you can freeze the uncooked patties for later)

Ingredients
For the potato cakes
6 Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt
3 slices whole wheat bread, crust removed
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 cup loosely packed coriander leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Coconut oil for frying

For the sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Method
Place the potatoes in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and reduce to a simmer. Cook potatoes until fork tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. 

Dunk the bread slices in water for 10 seconds. Remove and squeeze out all the water. Break up into pieces and add to a mixing bowl. Add the cooled potatoes, spices, chopped coriander, lime and salt to taste and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Mould the mixture into 3 inch diameter patties. At this point, you can freeze for later use or store in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside. 

To cook the potato cakes, fill a non-stick pan with coconut oil about 1/4 inch deep and heat on medium high until shimmering. Fry the cakes, 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and serve with a dollop of the yoghurt sauce as a side to grilled chicken or fish or with your favourite veg or of course, pack in the lunchbox for a delicious, kid-approved meal. 

Potato Salmon Salad

Potato Salmon Salad
Baby led weaning, 12 months+ 

Loosely inspired by the traditional salade nicoise, this cold potato, veggie and salmon salad with a honey sweetened vinaigrette was the first salad toddler EVER ate so I had to share it here. This versatile option allows the incorporation of cooked and cooled potatoes into your kid's diet in a healthy and fun way. You can serve it with one of the suggested dressings as a traditional salad or as finger food with a side of our favourite hummus or any veggie dip your family loves. 

Yield
2 toddler servings

Ingredients
For the salad
4 oz salmon filet, preferably wild
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste
6 small waxy potatoes (like new potatoes)
16 French green beans (haricots verts), ends trimmed
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 small radish, finely sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley (optional)

For the dressing
Option 1: Tahini Honey
1 small clove garlic crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey depending on sweetness desired (skip for babies under 12 months)
salt and pepper to taste

Option 2: Honey Dijon
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey depending on sweetness desired (skip for babies under 12 months)
salt and pepper to taste

Method
Preheat the oven to 375 F / 180 C.

Season the salmon with salt and paprika and cook in the preheated oven for 18 minutes until flaking. Finish with a 2 minute broil on high heat. Remove and set aside to cool. 

While the salmon is cooking, cook the potatoes until knife-tender either by boiling, steaming or using my favourite method, a pressure cooker (the low amount of water required and quick cooking ensures optimal preservation of nutrients). Allow the potatoes to cool. 

Steam the green beans until tender. Set aside to cool. 

Peel and slice the cooled potatoes and flake the salmon. Arrange in a bowl with the remaining veggies and garnish with freshly chopped parsley if your kids will tolerate it. Serve with the dressing on the side or mixed in, depending on preference. Feel free to add other veggies (avocados, peppers, carrots) and even a hard boiled egg to up the protein ante. Makes for a great lunch box option as well.



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Potato Leek Soup

In 'Don't snub the spud! Why the humble potato is a kid superfood', I share nutrition-based reasons why the potato is such a great option for the family table, especially for kids. This simple recipe celebrates the spud in all its starchy, satiating glory. 

Nothing screams cozy comfort classic like potato leek soup. I jazzed it up with white pepper - the seed of the matured black peppercorn minus the outer layer - and the results are delicious. A little goes a long way with white pepper so be careful. It gives more bite while also being more subtle than black pepper, perfect for the delicate flavours of this simple soup. We make this about once every two weeks and serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich or chicken strips and a side of veg - dip dip! 

A note on choosing potatoes
When picking potatoes, pay attention to the starch content. Starchier potatoes like Russets are great for baking, frying and also mashing as long as you don't overwork them. Less starchy New Potatoes are better where they have to hold their shape like in salads and stews. The Yukon Gold is a medium starch all purpose potato that works in many settings. 

Yield
4 toddler servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 leeks, white and light green parts chopped
4 potatoes peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Method
In a large pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil over medium until shimmering but not smoking. Add the leeks and sautee until translucent about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and sautee for a minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are softened, about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste and the white pepper. Allow the soup to cool and blend. Add the butter and stir well. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Skip the salt and offer it to babies for a delicious, creamy and hearty meal. 


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Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
6 months+

No thanksgiving meal is complete without the quintessential autumn squash, sweetly named butternut <3. This spiced butternut squash soup, served as a starter, is sure to wake up your taste buds, revving them up for the feast that follows. Toddlers and kids will love it too for the generous sweetness and creaminess on offer. The crunch from the toasted pine nuts is a heavenly match to the luxurious, buttery quality of the soup. 

Science Corner
Butternut squash is not only delicious but alive with nutrients - carotenoids (that become vitamin A in the body), antioxidants, anti-inflammatory molecules, types of starches that aid in blood sugar regulation, B vitamins, including folate and surprisingly, a bit of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha linoleic acid, also a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Squash is abundant in winter and affordable so there really is every reason to make it part of your family table. Combined here with antioxidant-rich spices that regulate blood sugar, exhibit antibacterial effects  and boost digestion, to name a few of the benefits, this delicious and soul-warming soup is sheer health and deliciousness in a bowl. 

Yield
2 adult and 2 toddler servings

Ingredients
Note: Use the higher spice amounts if you like a more intensely flavourful version or the lower amounts for a more subtle taste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 medium butternut squash peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato peeled and chopped
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 to 11/2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1/8 cup pine nuts (optional)

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the coconut oil on medium until shimmering. Add the leeks and sauté until translucent and softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the squash, sweet potato, ginger and stock and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potato and squash are soft.

If garnishing with pine nuts, while the soup is cooking, heat a skillet over medium and toast the pine nuts until golden for 1 minute, shaking often to prevent burning. Set aside to cool. 

Uncover the soup. Stir in the cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 3 minutes covered. Take the pot off the heat and alllow the soup to cool some. Transfer to a food processor or blend well using an immersion, hand held blender. Stir in the butter for added creaminess and sheen, top with a sprinkling of the toasted pine nuts and serve. Pretend not to be disheartened when toddler asks you to pick out all the 'white things'. It means more deliciousness for you! ;) 

You can also skip the salt and pine nuts and offer it to babies for a delicious and nutritious baby meal. 










Curry Egg Salad

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Curry Egg Salad
12 months+

Growing up in India, I had never heard of curry powder. Powder blends of various spices are common there, with garam masala being the most well known, but curry powder, per se, is a distinctly Western invention. That said, there are particular dishes where it works beautifully to lend a hint of the exotic without overpowering subtle flavors. In that vein, it perks up this healthy twist on classic egg salad perfectly. Curry powder blends can contain various compositions of herbs and spices - mine has cumin, turmeric, coriander, chilli pepper, mustard, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper, cinnamon, black pepper and saffron. Naturally, I'm working on the perfect homemade blend and will share that with you soon - stay tuned! 

Science Corner
Eggs contain choline which is extremely important for brain and memory development. At only 75 calories, an egg has 6 grams of high quality, complete protein (as in, containing all 9 essential amino acids) as well as iron, vitamins like B12, D, riboflavin and folate, minerals and carotenoids that are vital for eye development and vision. The egg is therefore a tiny nutritional powerhouse. But what about all that cholesterol?! While it's true that eggs do contain a meaningful helping of cholesterol, experts agree that it's not cholesterol in food but saturated and trans fats in the diet that causes blood cholesterol to be elevated. So go ahead and enjoy those nutrient-dense eggs - one a day is considered safe for healthy people. I skip the mayo and substitute calcium and protein-rich, creamy Greek yoghurt here for a super nutritious and healthy version of this favorite. 

Yield
2 toddler servings

Ingredients
3 eggs
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery (about ½ a stick)
1.5 tablespoons full fat, plain Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ lemon juiced
Salt to taste

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid place the eggs in a layer on the bottom, cover with an inch of cold water and bring to a rolling, aggressive boil. Turn the heat off, cover the pot and let the eggs sit for 15 minutes for the perfect hard-boiled texture. 
Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place in ice water until cooled, for a minute or so. 
Peel the eggs and mash with a fork or chop finely using an egg slicer into a fresh bowl. 
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. 
Serve on top of sliced cucumber sprinkled with sweet paprika or between whole wheat bread for a healthy and delicious lunch or snack. 

Cinnamon, Sweet Potato, Leek, Kale Puree

Cinnamon, Sweet potato, Leek, Kale Puree
6 months+

Science Corner
If spices were superheroes, cinnamon would occupy the upper echelons of power. Superman. Maybe Batman. No, actually maybe Captain America. Or more likely, a combination of all of those and more. Packed with anti-diabetes, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, cognition boosting, anti-cancer and female hormone cycle regulating powers, cinnamon is a spice truly worth incorporating into your baby's, toddler's, kid's and family's diets. The only caveat with cinnamon, as previously discussed, is that the widely available Cassia variety has high levels of coumarin, which is a liver toxin. A 2012 study conducted in Norway by the Scientific Committee for Food Safety found that Norwegian kids, because of their regular intake of cinnamon-flavored oatmeal, were ingesting coumarin in much higher doses than what is considered tolerable and safe. The simple way around this problem is to ensure that the cinnamon you use, especially if sprinkling it into your foods regularly (which you should!) is of the Ceylon / Sri Lankan variety, which has undetectable amounts of coumarin. You can get Ceylon cinnamon from specialty spice shops, Whole Foods and on Amazon. The extra effort in this regard is definitely worth it. 

Yield
8oz or 1-2 baby servings

Ingredients
½ large sweet potato, chopped
1 large kale leaf, stem and thick fibrous central vein removed, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)
Pinch, about 1/16th teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon or up to 1/8th teaspoon for more adventurous babies

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid or a pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium high until shimmering. 
Add the leeks and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. 
Add the potato, kale and cinnamon, ¼ to ½ cup of water for steaming (depending on how big your pot is and how liquid you want the puree) and cook on low heat with the lid on until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes for a regular pot and 10 for the pressure cooker. 
Once the veggies are cooked through, blend in a food processor or with a hand-held blender. Serve fresh or freeze for later. 
You can skip the oil and steam the veggies with the cinnamon in a pot with a lid or your baby puree maker of choice.
If your toddler likes mashed veggies as sides to chicken or fish, this is a nice, nutritious option. 


Immunity Boosting Spiced Chicken Soup

It's back-to-school season which means one thing is for certain - colds! Nothing breeds the cold virus like 10 toddlers in a classroom so of course, we had our very own viral visitor this week. As a Molecular Biologist, I am reluctant to admit that I'm rather anti-medication, especially for things like colds and coughs, where they merely provide symptomatic relief and aren't deemed terribly safe for young children. So the first thing I did upon spotting a runny nose was to stick a giant pot of chicken broth on the stove. One toddler a science experiment does not make, but we are now cold-free, well nourished and even have some leftover broth frozen away for that butternut squash soup I'm planning for next week. Hurrah for food as medicine, especially when its this delicious. 

Science Corner
When a health craze makes it way backstage to fashion week, you know it's worth taking seriously (or gone too far). Touted as a magic elixir that can fix all ailments, bone broth is precisely this craze du jour. There is honestly not a lot of scientific evidence for many of it's health claims (like collagen aiding healthy joints or healing of the intestinal lining) although a plethora of anecdotal evidence across many cultures spanning generations is suggestive of many positive health effects. There is some scientific evidence for the immunity-regulating and anti-inflammatory effects of chicken soup, particularly due to the amino acid cysteine which can thin out lung mucus and reduce upper respiratory distress. Bone broth is also rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus as well as protein. Here, it joins forces with anti-viral and anti-bacterial star aniseturmeric, ginger, lemongrass, black pepper and bay leaf to create a delicious, heart and soul-warming broth that's a powerful match for any pesky virus. 

Yield
6-8 generous soup servings

Ingredients
500 g / about 1 lb  chicken on the bone (I use drumsticks as toddler loves them)
2 leeks, white and green parts roughly chopped
2 carrots roughly chopped
1 onion roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 lemongrass bulb smashed
1/2 inch piece ginger chopped
1 inch piece fresh turmeric root chopped
4 black peppercorns
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
2 L water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (to help extract nutrients from the bones)
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Method
In a large pot for which you have a lid, place all the ingredients (except the fresh cilantro) and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that may arise. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook the broth covered for 3-6 hours.

Strain the broth and drink as is with an optional but delicious garnish of freshly chopped cilantro. You can add the broth to your favorite soup recipe, make it a meal by adding in some cooked soba noodles and veggies or use it in any preparation that calls for stock like rice and quinoa, which are immensely flavorful cooked in broth. Store it in the fridge for 3 days or freeze it for later use. 




 


Mouthwatering Mushroom Pizzas

MOUTHWATERING MUSHROOM PIZZAS
Toddler, Kid, Adult


Mushrooms are a MEGA superfood and so earthy and delicious but sadly for this mama, toddler hates them. Determined to find a preparation that he will eat, I created these portobello pizzas with the mushroom as the base and my homemade veggielicious paprika pomodoro as sauce. When two whole 'pizzas' were inhaled in our first test, I knew we had a winner on our hands. 

Science Corner
Mushrooms are powerful regulators of our immune system, keeping unwanted inflammation at bay while simultaneously activating microorganism-fighting capability. As a result of their anti-inflammatory effects, mushrooms are protective against cancer, particularly breast and prostate cancers, and cardiovascular ailments, both diseases linked to high levels of unwanted inflammation. Mushrooms contains powerful anti-oxidants like selenium, manganese and zinc and also boost anti-oxidant enzyme function directly. They also contain ergothioneine, a compound that works as an antioxidant and prevents DNA damage. I once heard a cancer biologist say that a mushroom a day is all you need to keep cancer away! An oversimplification most likely but these earthy delights are worth incorporating into a healthy lifestyle regularly. 

Yield
2 toddler servings

Ingredients
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
Olive oil for brushing
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups pomodoro (try my deliciously simple and ultra healthy recipe here)
Block of mozarella cheese sliced into 4-6 1/4 inch slices or grated cheese if you prefer
Chopped basil for garnish
Sweet paprika for sprinkling

Method
Preheat the oven at 375F/180C.

Brush the mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them stem side down on a roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and spoon in the pomodoro until the cavity is filled (about 2 tablespoons each mushroom). Place the mozzarella slices on top and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Let the mushrooms cool a bit, sprinkle with chopped basil to humor yourself (toddler ALWAYS rejects the 'green things'), sweet paprika and enjoy! 






Paprika Pomodoro

Store-bought pasta sauce is tempting because of the convenience factor but this tangy, delicious and vegetable-infused paprika pomodoro is so easy to make that I bet you won't be as tempted at the grocery store once you've tried it. You can add whichever veggies you choose and puree for a smooth texture. We use it with whole grain pasta, over portobello mushroom or regular pizzas and even as a substitute for ketchup! 

Science Corner
Kids love tomato sauce and luckily, tomatoes are bursting with nutrients. Rich in vitamin C and biotin, anti-oxidants like lycopene (released on cooking) and a boatload of phytonutrients, tomatoes have heart and bone health-boosting as well as anti-cancer properties. Paprika contains a potent anti-inflammatory compound called capsinoid. The strongest scientific evidence for paprika is for its anti-obesity effects - researchers from Penn State University observed significant increases in antioxidant status and decreases in insulin and triglyceride levels in human subjects after a meal laced with a spice blend (containing 30% paprika) versus the same exact meal without spices. 

Yield
500 g / 4 toddler pasta sauce servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 celery sticks finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
2 cups tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, warm the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and sautee for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and sautee until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and paprika and give the sauce a good stir. Cover and cook on a low flame for 15 minutes until the veggies are softened stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. You can also add zucchini, spinach etc (which will alter the color of the sauce) if you like. Once the veggies are cooked, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. If you like more acidity, you can add the vinegar at this point. Remove the bay leaf and puree for a smooth texture or leave it chunky, if you prefer. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days for a quick and delicious option in a pinch. Serve it with whole grain pasta, in mushroom pizzas or as a healthy alternative to ketchup! 










Cumin-y Refreshing Spinach Soup

As far as I'm concerned, kids can't eat too many green veggies! This cold and refreshing spinach soup has been a surprising hit with my toddler and also works beautifully on the family table. Serve it with a hot grilled cheese multigrain sandwich for a satisfying and nutritious lunch or summer supper. 

Science Corner
Spinach is one of the most nutritious veggies we can give our kids and families. It's rich in carotenoids (converted into vitamin A in the body), vitamins B, C, E, K and minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese and calcium although the calcium in spinach is poorly absorbed because of it's high oxalic acid content. One way around this is to boil the spinach (which we do here) to reduce the oxalate content. Combined with Greek yoghurt, digestion boosting and antioxidant rich cumin and lemon, which boosts the absorption of iron, this cool and refreshing spiced soup is yummy and healthy for all. 

Yield
2 adults and a toddler as a side dish or starter

Ingredients
5 cups spinach leaves
1 cup water for cooking the spinach
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1/2 lemon juiced
olive oil for drizzling
1 teaspoon fresh chopped coriander

Method
Place the spinach leaves and water in a pot with a lid. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Puree extremely well in a food processor or using an immersion blender. Allow it to cool. If your toddler/kid is averse to texture, particularly shreds of spinach (mine is!), you can strain for a smoother soup texture or feel free to leave as is. 

Mix the yoghurt with the cooled spinach and stir in the cumin, salt, sugar and lemon. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and coriander (if your kid doesn't hate "green things") as a refreshing and nutritious starter or side. 






Garlicky Guacamole

GARLICKY GUACAMOLE
Toddler, Kid, Adult

You know you've nailed a dish when everyone requests you to make it for their parties, including kids' birthdays! That recipe for me is this garlicky guac. The mere addition of garlic elevates an already perfect classic to the upper echelons of deliciousness. The garlic adds a subtle heat, a nuance, a depth that keeps folks guessing what 'that secret ingredient' might be. And kids seem to love it too which is, for us, the ultimate thumbs up.

Nutrition
Garlic is one of the oldest medicinal foods. A sulfur containing compound called allicin in garlic is responsible for its potent biological properties including reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL) and an increase in good cholesterol (HDL), anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects, reduction in triglycerides and immune boosting activities. Avocados are a potent anti-inflammatory food, rich in anti-oxidants and a source of excellent quality fat that aids in keeping inflammation in check and prevents heart disease. The raw shallots in this recipe also contain allicin like in garlic, boosting the aforementioned health benefits. 

Yield
Serves 4 adults and 1 toddler as an appetizer/snack

Ingredients
4 large avocados
2 shallots finely chopped
1 large garlic clove crushed
2 large limes juiced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander / cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Method
Mash the avocado flesh in a bowl, a good activity to involve toddler in! Add in the other ingredients and mix well. Check for salt and lime, adding more if necessary. Enjoy with chips, raw veggies, in sandwiches or on its own for a delectable, delightful, creamy, nutritious treat. 




Caraway Green Beans

CARAWAY GREEN BEANS
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Nutrition
Caraway may seem less familiar to us in the West but you have probably had it in Rye bread and the German delicacy Sauerkraut (or pickled cabbage). In Eastern Europe, caraway's medicinal powers are thought to be able to "cure every disease but death"! It's used as a digestive aid, to treat skin and respiratory infections, headaches and toothaches. There is emerging clinical evidence for it's ability to regulate the thyroid gland and endocrine systems. Here, it enlivens simple green beans in a unique and delicious flavor profile that complements any meat or fish main dish nicely. We chopped up the beans for the kiddos but you can leave them long with ends trimmed for a prettier effect and interesting finger food for more adventurous tots.

Yield
Generously serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients
1 lb French green beans (haricots verts) both ends trimmed
Water for blanching the beans 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon caraway seeds 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method
Bring a pot of water to boil and add a generous spoonful of sea salt. Add the green beans and blanche by boiling for just over a minute for crisp beans or longer for softer ones (if your kids, like mine, prefer them less crunchy). Transfer the beans to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking and retain freshness. Once cool, drain and dry the beans with a dish towel. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium flame until warm but not smoking. Add the caraway seeds and sauté until they start popping a bit but not burning, about 1-2 minutes. Add the green beans and sauté for another 1-2 minutes until the beans are coated with the caraway seeds and oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

Note: If your kids don't love the texture of the seeds in their mouth, you can add the seeds to the oil on a very low flame and let the flavor infuse the oil for about 5 minutes. Drain the oil into a fresh pan through a sieve that can filter out the seeds. Use the flavored oil to cook the beans. You can also puree the beans with a little water or cooked carrots for a tasty baby veggie side. 

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Avocado Tomato Edamame Salad

This salad is the perfect side for meals where you wish you had some more veggies on the table but just haven't the time or energy to make it happen. We love it with our turmeric hummus pita pocket for a quick, tasty and nutritious lunch. 

Nutrition
As discussed in our calcium series, edamame are a great non-dairy source of calcium with one cup providing 100 mg of this important mineral for bone, teeth and other health. They also provide good quality plant protein. iron, vitamin C and fiber. Avocados are the new 'black' when it comes to nutrition - everyone is eating them constantly and for good reason. With good quality fats that improve heart health and cholesterol, vitamin K which improves the retention of calcium, folate, fiber and vitamin C, these creamy treats from nature are an essential superfood. Tomatoes also provide a burst of vitamin C and vitamin K among other nutrients making this a thrown together in seconds salad you can feel incredibly good about. 

Yield
1-2 toddler servings

Ingredients 
1/2 avocado chopped
1/2 tomato chopped
1/4 cup edamame boiled in salted water for 4-6 minutes until soft
1/2 small lemon juiced 
Salt, pepper to taste
Pinch, about 1/8 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Method
Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl. Give them a loving stir. Serve as a delicious, refreshing, ultra nutritious side dish. 




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Cumin Beet Raita

Nutrition
If you hate beets it might be because you, like me, were only offered the boiled, sad preparation growing up. But beets done right can be addictive and delicious. My toddler definitely thinks so and I'm taking all the credit ;) Beets are not just gorgeous to look at but so amazing for our bodies, particularly due to their detoxification and anti-inflammatory powers, in addition to being a solid source of folate. Cumin is a fantastic digestive aid and antioxidant. It’s also a good source of iron! In this dish, cumin’s smoky and nutty flavors combine beautifully with dill weed’s herbaceous and citrus-like notes to complement the earthiness and sweetness of beets. We suggest pressure-cooking or steaming (versus boiling) the beets to preserve nutrients. Here, they join forces with probiotic and calcium-rich yoghurt to create a signature Indian side dish called raita - usually yoghurt mixed with vegetables but sometimes fruit, often savory but sometimes sweet and always deliciously refreshing. 

Yield
Serves 1 adults or 2 kids as a hearty snack or side dish

Ingredients
1 large beet diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup plain whole milk or Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill weed
Water for pressure-cooking or steaming the beets
Salt to taste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sugar or 2 teaspoons honey

Method
Cook the beets until soft by steaming or pressure-cooking with about 2 inches of water in a pot with a lid. Drain and return to the stove top. Add the cumin and dill and sauté for 1 minute on medium-high heat until the spice and herb are cooked through. Allow the mixture to cool.

In a bowl, combine the cumin-spiced beets, yoghurt and sugar or honey. Add salt to taste. Skip the honey and salt and puree for younger babies or serve as a more textured meal. Believe it or not, this is my toddler's favorite mid-afternoon snack but it also works as a great and nutritious side dish to meat or chicken. 

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White Pepper Corn & Tomato

My 2 year old loves corn. I created this dish for a little more flavor than your typical corn on the cob and also as a way to add in more veggies. Here, I use tomatoes and shallots to enliven fresh corn but you can add in green beans, peas, carrots and even very finely chopped spinach or kale to get those greens into the mix. Here, the use of gentler white pepper works beautifully with the summer-iness of corn, tomatoes and basil. 

Nutrition
Corn is bursting with antioxidants, which are molecules that prevent oxidative stress linked to various diseases like cancer and Alzheimers. The more antioxidants you take in from food, the better! Corn also has a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber in corn literally feeds the good bugs in your digestive tract which convert corn into short chain fatty acids that in turn, keep your intestinal lining in good condition and may prevent colon cancer. Corn is also a very good source of folate important for brain development, metabolism and energy production and for optimal red blood cell formation. In a nutshell, it's a great idea to chow down on corn. 

Yield 
2 toddler side dishes

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot finely chopped
6 cherry tomatoes halved
I cup corn kernels cut off 2 ears of corn
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil until warm but not smoking. Add the shallot and sautee until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, corn, salt and white pepper and sautee to coat well in the oil about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the corn and tomatoes have softened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly chopped basil and serve as the perfect side to fish or chicken. You can also wrap the corn in lettuce leaves to make little green, crispy sandwiches for the family table. 






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